How A Single Kiosk Transformed Social Services
Most cities gather data about social services. Non-profit organizations report quantitative data regularly to their funders and donors in order to assess the impact of shelters, soup kitchens, and other social services targeting homeless and at-risk individuals.
What about the quality of the social services being provided? How does an organization collect that data anonymously and securely, when the population they serve is at risk, and without breaking the bank? Pulse for Good has developed an innovative answer to these questions in partnership with Armodilo: digital touchpoints.
Gathering feedback on social services efficacy can be a momentous undertaking. In many cities, "there can be an adversarial relationship between those offering and those receiving the services," says Blake Kohler, co-founder of Pulse for Good. "The money the service providers are getting isn't connected to the feedback they are getting from people, or to how well they offer the service. I've heard about one company that was hired to do a survey of homeless people in a major city, and it took one full year and $5 million to collect 700 responses. Our first kiosk was installed in June 2018, and we've received over 1,000 submissions, at less than 1% the cost."
It all started in 2017, when Kohler's software startup produced employee satisfaction survey tracking software, and he was asked by a city to see if it could be used to identify if the homeless youth population was satisfied with the municipal services being offered to help improve their lives. For Kohler, the biggest challenge in implementation was to provide a venue for service recipients to provide feedback.
Since Kohler could not even assume smartphone ownership, he thought a kiosk would provide an ideal solution to gather feedback from the homeless youth population and help identify ways to make their lives better. "We found expensive kiosk options for $10k and $50k, and then we found Armodilo," said Kohler, adding "we realized immediately how effective it would be to build an application on an iPad and put them in the Armodilo kiosk."
Kohler's choice to use a tablet-powered kiosk was difficult when engaging with an at-risk population, because the security of the technology was paramount. "One of the places we went to, to install our kiosk, had their wall-mounted TV stolen shortly before we got there," said Kohler. "The Keyo wall-mounted kiosk from Armodilo fits our need incredibly well. They’re secure, they screw into the wall, they look nice, and they were easy to install."
Most importantly, the kiosks are secure. "We bought one Keyo kiosk and installed it in a homeless shelter to test it. We literally asked people to try to rip the Armodilo kiosk off the wall. It’s still there. No one has been able to pull it off the wall. The iPad inside is fine and it’s secure," said Kohler.
Thanks to Pulse for Good and their survey platform, everybody wins. Service providers can now collect qualitative data to self-identify how they can do their job better. Funders of non-profit organizations can now rest easy knowing the quality of service they are helping to provide, and homeless individuals get the chance to have their voices be heard, participating in a feedback loop that creates real, tangible change.
One Pulse for Good client, a shelter in Salt Lake City, UT, had removed the curtains in the women's showers because they were worried about drug use. Once the Pulse for Good Kiosks were installed, they gathered 400 survey submissions in 2 months, which included many female clients complaining about the lack of shower curtains. This shelter gave its clients some dignity back by installing new curtains which offered both privacy and the ability to maintain security by monitoring for drug use. Without these qualitative surveys, the shelter would not have received this feedback at all.
Pulse for Good looks to transform social service providers across the nation. "We plan to pivot to 15,000 rehab centers, and we have a pilot running right now," said Kohler. "The service providers are the real heroes here. Tackling homelessness is a big issue, and it's a problem that's just getting worse in America. But once you start hearing people's stories, it's hard not to have empathy and try to make their life better. When we are all working as a team, and when the homeless individual is treated as part of the solution you get really powerful results."